Exact MAU Data

Introduction

This article introduces the usage of and methodology behind the "exact MAU" tables in BigQuery:

  • firefox_desktop_exact_mau28_by_dimensions_v1,
  • firefox_nondesktop_exact_mau28_by_dimensions_v1, and
  • firefox_accounts_exact_mau28_by_dimensions_v1.

The calculation of MAU (monthly active users) has historically been fraught with troubling details around exact definitions and computational limitations, leading to disagreements between analyses. These tables contain pre-computed MAU, WAU, and DAU aggregates for various usage criteria and dimensions, allowing efficient calculation of aggregates across arbitrary slices of those dimensions. The tables follow a consistent methodology which is intended as a standard across Mozilla for MAU analysis going forward.

Table of Contents

Conceptual Model

Metric

A metric is anything want to (and can) measure. In order for a metric to be calculated, a usage criterion and a slice must be specified. The metric will produce a single value per day, summarizing data:

  • for one day or more days (i.e. the metric value for a particular day may depend on data from other days as well)
  • for all users (whatever notion of user makes sense for the data, generally profiles) in a particular sub-population
  • where the sub-population will include users that meet the specified usage criteria and are in the specified slice.

A simple usage criterion is "All Desktop Activity", which includes all Firefox Desktop users that we have any data (telemetry ping) for on the day in question. The simplest slice is "All" which places no restrictions on the sub-population.

For example, the metric "Daily Active Users (DAU)" with usage criteria "All Desktop Activity" and slice "All" involves summarizing data on all users of Firefox Desktop over a single day.

Usage Criteria

Active user counts must always be calculated in reference to some specific usage criterion, a binary condition we use to determine whether a given user should be considered "active" in a given product or feature. It may be something simple like "All Desktop Activity" (as above) or, similarly, "All Mobile Activity". It may also be something more specific like "Desktop Visited 5 URI" corresponding to calculation of aDAU.

Distinct usage criteria correspond to distinct *_mau columns in the Exact MAU tables.

Slice

A slice defines the sub-population on which we can calculate a metric and is specified by setting restrictions in different dimensions. Examples of dimensions include: "Country", "Attribution Source", and "Firefox Version". Thus an example slice may be "Country = US; Firefox Version = 60|61", which restricts to profiles that report usage in the US on Firefox versions 60 or 61. There is implicitly no restriction on any other dimensions. Thus, the empty slice - "All" - is also a valid slice and simply places no restrictions on any dimension. Note there are some complexities here:

  • Firstly, a dimension may be scalar and need to be suitably bucketed (instead of every possible profile age being a unique slice element, maybe we prefer to group users between 12 and 16 months old into a single slice element); likewise we may need to use normalized versions of string fields
  • Secondly, we require that dimensions be non-overlapping, especially for metrics calculated over multiple days of user activity. In a given day, a profile may be active in multiple countries, but we aggregate that to a single value by taking the most frequent value seen in that day, breaking ties by taking the value that occurs last. In a given month, the assigned country may change from day to day; we use the value from the most recent active day up to the day we're calculating usage for.

A slice is expressed as a set of conditions in WHERE or GROUP BY clauses when querying Exact MAU tables.

Using the Tables

The various Exact MAU datasets are computed daily from the *_last_seen tables (see clients_last_seen) and contain pre-computed DAU, WAU, and MAU counts per usage criterion per each unique combination of dimensions values. Because of our restriction that dimension values be non-overlapping, we can recover MAU for a particular slice of the data by summing over all rows matching the slice definition.

The simple case of retrieving MAU for usage criterion "All Desktop Activity" and slice "All" looks like:

SELECT
    submission_date,
    SUM(mau) AS mau
FROM
    `moz-fx-data-derived-datasets.telemetry.firefox_desktop_exact_mau28_by_dimensions_v1`
GROUP BY
    submission_date
ORDER BY
    submission_date

Now, let's refine our slice to "Country = US; Campaign = whatsnew" via a WHERE clause:

SELECT
    submission_date,
    SUM(mau) AS mau
FROM
    `moz-fx-data-derived-datasets.telemetry.firefox_desktop_exact_mau28_by_dimensions_v1`
WHERE
    country = 'US'
    AND campaign = 'whatsnew'
GROUP BY
    submission_date
ORDER BY
    submission_date

Perhaps we want to compare MAU as above to aDAU over the same slice. The column visited_5_uri_dau gives DAU as calculated with the "Desktop Visited 5 URI" usage criterion, corresponding to aDAU:

SELECT
    submission_date,
    SUM(mau) AS mau,
    SUM(visited_5_uri_dau) AS adau
FROM
    `moz-fx-data-derived-datasets.telemetry.firefox_desktop_exact_mau28_by_dimensions_v1`
WHERE
    country = 'US'
    AND campaign = 'whatsnew'
GROUP BY
    submission_date
ORDER BY
    submission_date

Additional usage criteria may be added in the future as new columns named *_*mau, etc. where the prefix describes the usage criterion.

For convenience and clarity, we make the exact data presented in the 2019 Key Performance Indicator Dashboard available as views that do not require any aggregation:

  • firefox_desktop_exact_mau28_v1,
  • firefox_nondesktop_exact_mau28_v1, and
  • firefox_accounts_exact_mau28_v1.

An example query for desktop:

SELECT
    submission_date,
    mau,
    tier1_mau
FROM
    `moz-fx-data-derived-datasets.telemetry.firefox_desktop_exact_mau28_v1`

These views contain no dimensions and abstract away the detail that FxA data uses the "Last Seen in Tier 1 Country" usage criterion while desktop and non-desktop data use the "Country" dimension to determine tier 1 membership.

Additional Details

Inclusive Tier 1 Calculation for FxA

The 2019 Key Performance Indicator definition for Relationships relies on a MAU calculation restricted to a specific set of "Tier 1" countries. In the Exact MAU datasets, country is a dimension that would normally be specified in a slice definition. Indeed, for desktop and non-desktop clients, the definition of "Tier 1 MAU" looks like:

SELECT
    submission_date,
    SUM(mau) AS mau
FROM
    `moz-fx-data-derived-datasets.telemetry.firefox_desktop_exact_mau28_by_dimensions_v1`
WHERE
    country IN ('US', 'UK', 'DE', 'FR', 'CA')
GROUP BY
    submission_date
ORDER BY
    submission_date

Remember that our non-overlapping dimensions methodology means that the filter in the query above considers only the country value from the most recent daily aggregation, so a user that appeared in one of the specified countries early in the month but then changed location to a non-tier 1 country would not count toward MAU.

Due to the methodology used when forecasting goal values for the year, however, we need to follow a more inclusive definition for "Tier 1 FxA MAU" where a user counts if they register even a single FxA event originating from a tier 1 country in the 28 day MAU window. That calculation requires a separate "FxA Seen in Tier 1 Country" criterion and is represented in the exact MAU table as seen_in_tier1_country_mau:

SELECT
    submission_date,
    SUM(seen_in_tier1_country_mau) AS tier1_mau
FROM
    `moz-fx-data-derived-datasets.telemetry.firefox_accounts_exact_mau28_by_dimensions_v1`
GROUP BY
    submission_date
ORDER BY
    submission_date

Confidence Intervals

The Exact MAU tables enable tracking of MAU for potentially very small subpopulations of users where statistical variation can often overwhelm real trends in the data. In order to support statistical inference (confidence intervals and hypothesis tests), these tables include a "pseudo-dimension" we call id_bucket. We assign each client (or user, in the case of FxA data) to one of 20 buckets based on a hash of their client_id (or user_id), with the effect that each user is randomly assigned to one and only one bucket. If we sum MAU numbers for each bucket individually, we can use resampling techniques to determine the magnitude of variation and assign a confidence interval to our sums.

As an example of calculating confidence intervals, see the Desktop MAU KPI query in STMO which uses a jackknife resampling technique implemented as a BigQuery UDF.

Data Reference

Scheduling

These tables are updated daily via the parquet to BigQuery infrastructure in the following DAGs:

Schema

The data is partitioned by submission_date.

As of 2019-03-29, the current version for all Exact MAU tables is v1, and the schemas are visible via the telemetry dataset in the BigQuery console.